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Homework Help > Essay Lab

Can you guide me through the steps to writing a discursive essay?

Asked on September 20, 2012 at 4:05 PM by Jessica Gardner

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2 Answers

A discursive essay has features in common with other essay types, yet has an objective all its own. Often required in exams, where no notes or reference material is allowed, a discursive essay sets out the writer's understanding of and opinion on a topic that may be such as an issue, a problem, or a quotation.

The objectiveof a discursive essay, briefly stated, is to present two to four arguments with supporting evidence, then.
The basic five-paragraph essay structure, which you have probably used many times by this point, works extremely well for an opinion essay. It’s a starting point, and when you get to university your profs will expect a more complex approach to essay writing. If you feel confident about your essay-writing skills, you can certainly branch out into longer and more complex essays. But this basic five-paragraph outline is a good starting point, especially if you feel uncertain of your ability.


A discursive essay has features in common with other essay types, yet has an objective all its own. Often required in exams, where no notes or reference material is allowed, a discursive essay sets out the writer's understanding of and opinion on a topic that may be such as an issue, a problem, or a quotation.

Around the world, increased vaccination leads to better public health. Diseases like smallpox and polio which once killed and disabled millions of people are virtually unknown today thanks to immunization programs. Yet in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Taliban discourage immunization, rates of polio are on the rise again (Nordland).

The objective of a discursive essay, briefly stated, is to present two to four arguments with supporting evidence, then to conclude your argument, after acknowledging an opposing position, by stating your own influential opinion formed on the basis of the supporting evidence.
Look at the essay and do the exercises to improve your writing skills.

You may argue against a topic, for it, or present a balanced argument. Having chosen a stance, some instructors prefer you reserve your opinion for the final paragraph while others require a statement of personal stance in the opening paragraph, depending on the degree of personalization or objectivity required of you.

Rosh Pillay is a South African teacher. She used action research to help her students organise their argument essays and so improve their writing. You might like to try the same solutions she used.

You may introduce your essay with a thought provoking challenge or a balanced assertion, with an anecdote, illustration, or quotation. The BBC Standard Grade website has examples of each of these approaches.
The British Council is committed to sharing our expertise in English language learning. This series is a comprehensive online tuition guide, taking you through all the key elements you need for a good piece of argumentative essay writing. This series is particularly relevant to secondary school students struggling with their English curriculum.

A significant difference between the discursive essay and the persuasive (or argument) essay is intent: in the discursive, to present a well-balanced argument and personal opinion; in the persuasive, to convince that your opinion is correct.

Introducing the British Council’s How to Write an Argumentative Essay animated video series. This is the first of five simple and easy to follow videos that will show you how you can improve your writing.

Another difference from the persuasive and argumentative essays is that while expert opinion is required in these two, the discursive essay may include opinions from less lustrous people such as friends, parents, and local personages.
When writing to argue, persuade and advise, you are offering ideas to other people. However, each style does this in different ways. If you argue, the writing tends to look at both sides and come to a conclusion. If you persuade, it tends to be one-sided, making your ideas the only sensible choice. If you advise, it tends to be softer, guiding someone towards your ideas.

Of course, standard academic research is a great benefit to your essay but also useful are television, magazine and Internet sources. What constitutes appropriate sources for argument support is a significant distinguishing feature of the discursive essay.
Discursive writing presents an argument related to a given topic. It can either examine both sides of the issue in a balanced way or argue persuasively on one side only.

Whether you are required to provide two, three, or four arguments and supporting sources, each of your next paragraphs will present one argument and its supporting evidence. Your writing will be formal academic writing, though the required level of formality may vary depending on instructor preference.

There are two basic types of discursive essay. Firstly there are persuasive essays in which you can argue strongly either in favour of or against a given discussion.

In other words, some may allow "I" in the argument paragraphs while some may require "I" be reserved for the concluding paragraph. All agree you will not use colloquialisms, abbreviations (for example, eg.,), or contractions.
Writing an argument for GCSE English is different from arguing with a friend. You should write a balanced and rational argument, less passionate or emotional than if you were writing to persuade. You should take opposing views into account in your response.

All further agree that an appropriately high level of vocabulary is required and that transition, or linking, words and phrases are necessary.

Transition (linking) words and phrases show the logical connections between thoughts and arguments and help point the reader to the desired conclusion. There are several classes of transitions. These are: continuation and furtherance of thought (secondly, also; since, accordingly, for example), contrasting thought (yet, nonetheless), hedging expressions (possibly, may be) and definite expressions (most certainly, unquestionably), and concluding or summary expressions (as a result, hence, thus).

Before your concluding paragraph in which you will restate or state your own opinion, leading readers to form a similar opinion, you will present and explain the opposing point of view, the opposing stance and argument.

Your well reasoned essay will also be well balanced because both sides are represented though you draw readers to an enlightened conclusion through supporting evidence.
An opinion essay exists to prove your main point - your thesis. This should be clearly stated in your opening paragraph. Don’t leave the reader to guess what your position is on the issue - make a clear stand!

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(give the basic information and a headstart to your essay)

you can follow the order : background information/current situation, importance,a preview of the argument, and a balanced view.

second paragraph- third paragraph: show your two points to support your answer. you can support with examples that you know.

fourth and fifth paragraph: counter argument. show the reader a different point of view.

sixth paragraph: balanced view or preferred stand. ( summary of points or recommendation )

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